Ever heard of an Internet TV show called The Game Room? If not, then don't fret. The show, hosted by Mark Bussler and David Crosson, streamed from an obscure website called FromUSAlive.com for just under a year, between November 1999 and October 2000. Even as an active member of the classic gaming community on the Internet since 1995, I had never heard of the show until Inecom's facetiously-subtitled Classic Game Room: The Rise and Fall of the Internet's Greatest Video Game Review Show popped up recently. This flawed comedy compilation definitely entertains, but it's clearly destined for the back shelf of a niche audience.
The DVD consists of ten slimmed down, re-edited, and marginally classic episodes of The Game Room, interspersed between forgettable pseudo-documentary segments. Each episode, framed around a single video game, showcases the two hosts giving sarcastic commentary or performing tangentially-related sketches. Crosson and Bussler brim with natural chemistry during their roundtable exchanges of mostly clever ad-libbed banter about beer and video games. While most of the shows' core content seems formless and meandering — none of the episodes on the DVD have real value as game reviews — a few of the sketches and parodies they attempt stand out as genuinely hilarious, like watching Dave torture a friend with his mutant powers, or seeing a drunken Matchbox car chase between the two hosts that ends in chaos. Best of all are Dave's toilet stall confessions in "The Real Game Room" (a parody of The Real World) throughout the last episode on the DVD. Bussler's rare talent for tight comedic editing pulls each show together, and it makes sense: he's currently a professional documentary filmmaker.
But Bussler, co-host of The Game Room, authored the DVD and owns the production company that released it. He also wrote and produced the documentary portion of the film, which, while apparently intending to be tongue-in-cheek, still manages to come off as self-aggrandizing. Bussler's voiceovers start off obviously and intentionally ridiculous, with cliché jokes about the two Game Room stars becoming multi-millionaires that waste their riches on women, drugs, and booze. The joke completely falls apart when the filmmaker interviews himself — and only himself — on camera. (David Crosson, busy in another state, did not take part in the making of the DVD.) In the interviews, Bussler slips somewhere between self-deprecating humor and a serious assessment of The Game Room's groundbreaking nature, giving the viewer an awkward glimpse at thinly veiled conceit though hairline cracks in his supposedly humorous facade. At one point, with Bussler's deadpan delivery, you honestly can't tell if he's going to tell a joke or start crying.
Even if The Game Room actually was innovative and ahead of its time, a filmmaker interviewing himself about his own project still seems a little like a person writing his own Wikipedia entry. Ultimately, the documentary spoils any good that could have come from a Game Room DVD collection. A ten minute introduction explaining the setting and the context in which the episodes were created would have done nicely, but Bussler went too far. Skip those segments and just watch the episodes.
The video quality of the collection is surprisingly clear and crisp for a low budget web TV show. The disc comes in a regular DVD case with attractive packaging. But at about $17 US (its current retail price) Classic Game Room is extraneously expensive and definitely not worth the buy for the average video game fan. As previously mentioned, the exclusive "documentary" footage adds nothing of value to the disc, and all that's left is essentially a half-entertaining, amateur production that's available for free online. My advice is this: unless you're a die-hard fan of the original show (all three of you out there), you'd probably get more out of watching the episodes on YouTube instead. In the end, despite Bussler's nostalgic machinations, history will likely remember The Game Room as a shining example of two genuinely talented people doing something genuinely mediocre.
|The Skinny: Classic Game Room DVD|
|Good Features:||Amusing hosts with good chemistry. A handful of genuinely funny, memorable moments. Great editing.|
|Bad Features:||Unfunny, self-aggrandizing pseudo-documentary segments. Mostly forgettable content. Functionally worthless game reviews. Way too expensive.|
(10 Being Best)
|[ 5.5 out of 10 ] Shiny Marbles - Mediocre +|